swollen thyroid

What Is Swollen Thyroid (Goiter)?

Swollen thyroid – also known as goiter – occurs when the thyroid gland in the neck enlarges. The main cause of this is an iodine deficiency in the diet, although other thyroid disorders can cause goiter, too. Goiters can occur in anyone, at any age, but are more common in women than in men.

What Causes Swollen Thyroid (Goiter)?

Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of goiter. If a person’s diet is deficient in iodine, the thyroid hormones are unable to be produced enough, triggering the body to produce an enlarged thyroid.

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Goiter can also be caused by Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder which leads to an overactive thyroid and causes the gland to become swollen and tender.

Follicular cell adenoma and thyroid cancer can also cause goiters. In very rare cases, goiters can result from radiation.

What Are the Symptoms of Swollen Thyroid (Goiter)?

The main symptom of goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. This appears as visible enlargement at the front of the neck. In some cases, a person might not experience other symptoms that are typically associated with an overactive or underactive thyroid.

In some cases, a person might also experience hoarseness, trouble swallowing and breathing, as well as a cough. In cases of an overactive thyroid, a person might also experience fatigue, anxiety, sweating, and an increased heart rate.

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Diagnosis and Treatment of Swollen Thyroid (Goiter)

If a goiter is suspected, the patient can expect to have a blood test and physical examination. Depending on the cause, the patient may need additional tests, such as a biopsy. Once the cause is identified, the doctor can recommend a treatment plan.

Treatment for a swollen thyroid typically involves taking medications or undergoing surgery. For mild cases, medications such as thyroid hormone replacement or anti-thyroid medication can be prescribed. If the goiter is large or impacting function, a partial or full thyroid resection is typically recommended.

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Key Takeaways: Swollen Thyroid (Goiter)

  • Swollen thyroid (goiter) occurs when the thyroid gland in the neck enlarges.
  • Iodine deficiency is the main cause of goiter, although Graves’ disease, follicular cell adenoma, thyroid cancer, and radiation can also cause goiter.
  • The main symptom of goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland, which can be accompanied by hoarseness, trouble swallowing and breathing.
  • Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination and blood test. Treatment can include medication or surgery, depending on the cause.

Goiter can cause a great deal of discomfort and lead to serious health complications. If you suspect you might have a swollen thyroid, seek the advice of a primary care provider or endocrinologist for timely diagnosis and treatment.